How To Handle Employee Office Romances

Think quick: how many couples are there in your office? Like many managers, a couple of names will probably come to mind in less than five minutes. There are over 8 million cubicle cupids across the country today, and you can’t stop your employees from joining them unless you enforce a no-dating policy in the office. Office romances have both advantages and disadvantages. Employees in relationships are generally more motivated, spend more time at work, have improved quality of work, and less absents and tardiness. On the other hand, an office romance might also lead to accusations of favoritism, lead to difficulties in assigning projects, and may require a reassignment of a partner. Here’s how to handle employee office romances without implementing a no dating policy at work.

  1. Accept the fact that romance happens.  According to a law professor at the University of Southern Oregon, there are six to eight million people who have dated or had a relationship with a coworker. Many of these end up in marriage.
  2. Office romances happen outside the office too. Relationships could develop between coworkers during business trips or assignments outside the office. This is why companies often request that their employees book hotel rooms on different floors or hold meetings in conference rooms rather than their hotel rooms.
  3. It is legal to enforce policies that define unacceptable behavior in the office.  Just like a dress code, you can create a “code of conduct” employees should follow during work hours. Look at the rules of similar companies about their policies on dating in the office. You can involve the staff to discuss which behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate at work.
  4. If your company already has a policy on dating in the workplace, make sure everyone knows.  Put it on the bulletin board, send out memos, or hold a meeting to inform everyone of the rules.
  5. Give your employees a venue to speak confidentially to someone at work about their relationships. Make sure that your employees know they can turn to this person if their relationship could lead to a conflict of interest, such as a supervisor-subordinate relationship.
  6. Inform your employees about sexual harassment, and discuss appropriate language, dress and appearance, and physical contact. This information will be helpful to employees who are hoping to start a relationship with a coworker.
  7. If an office romance has gone sour, sit down with both parties and ask if they have any concerns about working together.  If they do, consider reassigning them to a different team, department, or project. If both parties have problems handling their emotions, its best to refrain from addressing the cause of the emotional display and place emphasis on the importance of appropriate behavior instead. You may also recommend a counselor.

Your employees’ romantic and personal lives are not your business, but it’s always a good idea to make a general statement and a list of appropriate behavior in the office. Be very clear to your employees about which behaviors are acceptable or not.


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